There are simply so many great places to explore and fish within day-trip range of Sun Valley. Yesterday on my weekly commute from Boise to Ketchum, I dropped down into the basalt canyons of the Boise River System to poke around a bit and see what the trout were up to. Normal summer temperatures and conditions are finally upon us so it will be interesting to see how typical benchmark events and hatches play catch up.
I was surprised to see stream-side trees and grass absolutely loaded with adult salmon flies. Caddis bounced around the on the water, mosquitoes hovered around my head and arms, and big bushy stone flies scrambled from the branches and even flew from tree to tree. It really felt like summer. While working to focus my camera on the big bugs as they crawled around the base of a tree I realized it’s also time to watch out for more than bugs. Yes the Rattle Snakes are out big time as well!
I tied on a few variations of salmon fly dries, and anticipated the aggressive splashy takes that usually make this time of year so fun. Drift after drift my presentation slid right down the table, bouncing off the overhanging cut banks and structure. Not even a sniff. Puzzled I watched a bit as natural after natural bug did the same without so much as a glance from any fish. I moved on down stream and found more natural bugs floating and fluttering down the bank unscathed. I came into a large eddy where I could see a handful of trout feeding on nymphs, but they paid no attention to even the live bait passing above them. I finally coaxed one fish into giving my bug a taste, and after a quick snap shot in the water he was back on his way. It really did not seem like the were fish sitting where one would expect them. Fairly high flows had the water line slightly up the bank into the brush, and that brush was crawling with food. Normally I would expect fish to be “keyed” into this opportunity and holding tight to the bank in this brush. But not today. Not even when walking up the bank did fish spook and shoot out of the juicy looking shaded holding areas. Thats when I came upon a large shallow tail out in the river with a bottom of clean small gravel. You guessed it, a large spawning redd. And on that redd were dozens of large mature fish, doing there thing.
I was a bit surprised to see salmon flies, as along with most things in nature this year things seem to be a bit late. Many years in the past the salmon flies on the Boise are peaking around July 4th, so this seemed actually a bit on the early side. As well I don’t think I can remember seeing so many fish still so actively spawning this time of year. Just goes to show that conditions and calendars are all relative, and not worth betting on.
So PS, watch out for snakes, bring bug spray, and please don’t bother the spawning fish!